Soapdodgers On Tour travel blog

The battle with Franz Josef commences - we made it up to...

Mrs P in a large bombay sapphire 'n' ice

"What!... I go straight up here?"

Despite the whales being bigger than a bus they were mighty difficult...

This is the 'water taxi' much of the trip was done on...

Abel Tasmen

With a feeling of intrepidation we checked in at Franz Josef Glacier guide reception to be kitted out in all the gear for the Glacier climb(suprisingly, flip flops were not appropriate footwear). The boots we picked were heavier than iron anvils and the ice "talonz" which we would need for ice climbing resembled the parts from a 1980's mechanno set. Take it as read that everything else we were given had been worn by some sweaty european traveller climbing mountains for 8 hours. Looking like a school field trip with everyone dressed in exactly the same gear we walked the 3Km trail to the start of the Glacier. Groups were assigned according to fitness / adventure level so the P's met in the middle and went for the intermediate group.

Climbing the slate filled mountain side like a pair of mountain goats we made it to the "real" start of the Glacier. Donning our mechanno set we embarked on the monstrous hike up the ice steps(so kindly carved by our hosts) to reach the first plateau and catch our breath. Much walking, mostly up hill and possible lack of oxygen inspired Mrs. P. to observe that "this would be really nice if the ice wasn't so cold". Fortunatley for her no one else heard, otherwise we would have been ridiculed and left to find our own way back.

Climbing through the ice field was a fantastic experience and we even managed to take some piccies of ourselves crammed into some tight spaces and ice caves.

After a quick lunch we embarked on the next stage of the hike, this was even more amazing with the sun making an appearance and the Galcier looking even more blue that it had done in the morning. Feeling the blisters forming and our thigh muscles looking like the Terminators we headed back down. Removing the mechanno set and pretty much stumbling down the mountain we only had the 3 Km walk back to the bus to do. We eventually made it 10 exhausting hours!! after we had left the bus in the morning.

Absolutely knackered we crawled off the bus and into bed.

Next day we were up hobbling around looking like we had just finished an Iron man competition. Fortunately, we only had a 6 hour(blissful) drive across Arthurs Pass back to Christchurch. Mr P. was reassured that the journey was very scenic as he spent most of the time catching Z's(he wasn't driving).

Christchurch was just as happenin' as we had remembered, so after a treating ourselves to dinner out, not pasta!, we headed back to our top 10 caravan park for some hardcore partying. Up early next morning we prepared ourselves for the drive up to Blenheim (the wine region / hangover at 3 pm).

On route we managed to stop off at Kaikoura and take a boat out to see the Whales and Dolphins. We were lucky enough to see whales and one of them breaching 6 times which was pretty special. The Dolphin pods were massive and we got bored of watching them after 20 minutes(thats how many there were).

Arriving in Blenheim we plotted our attack on the winneries to maximise drinking time. With a very effiicent schedule we managed to take in 8 winneries and buy four botles of very nice wine. Feeling extremely pleased with the bargains we had picked up we even treated ourselves to lunch. We got chatting to a couple from Nottingham who we couldn't wait to tell about the bargains we had picked up, because all that wine in the UK would have a cost an arm and leg. Imagine our delight when we realised it had cost us an arm and a leg. Mr. P. had been working on his own currency rate, one George Soros would have been proud of. Instead of the $4 NZ to the pound that we had been working to for the last 2 weeks we found out that is was actually........$2.5 NZ. With Mr. P. heading to the kitchen to pay off the lunch we eventually sped our way upto Nelson, cruising the down hill sections in neutral to try to recoup some cash. Hitting Nelson we nearly checked into a caravan park that looked like something out of the horror movie Frdiay 13th until Mrs. P. put her foot down.

Looking forward to the North Island, we attempted to get organised and book our Interisland ferry. With still 2 days to go we thought we could have the pick of all the ferry times. Well..... we had a choice of 5:30am(4:30 check in) and 9:30pm(arriving 12:30am). we went for the early morning start.

With 2 days left to go we still had time to squeeze another walk / tramp in. Hurtling up to Abel Tasman National Park we boarded our water taxi on the road!! to take us out to Torrents bay for the 13Km walk back to base camp. Feeling jaded we arrived back at Alan and collapsed.

The journey across to the North Island was very calm(thankfully, Mrs. P. was beginning to get an Ease habit) and we even got to see the sunrise of another beautiful day.

We really enjoyed our time in South Island, seen some amazing things and had some amazing experiences. Lets hope the North Island can compare.

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